GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen turned his head, stared at the photograph of the Gators posing with the 1996 national championship trophy in the Superdome and then summed up Steve Spurrier's legacy with one sentence.
``He's always looking over your shoulder around here,'' Mullen said.
Maybe so, but the shadow cast by the ol' ball coach doesn't loom nearly as large as it did two years ago and doesn't even compare to the one left behind when he jumped to the NFL after the 2001 season. And when Spurrier returns to Florida Field for the second time Saturday to face his alma mater, the biggest story line of this series in recent years will be a mere subplot.
``I don't think it'll be a big deal,'' Spurrier said.
n the hunt for the national championship against No. 24 South Carolina (7-3, 4-3).
The Heisman Trophy winner set a school record with five rushing touchdowns in Columbia last season. He finished with 120 yards rushing, 304 yards passing and seven total touchdowns in the 51-31 victory.
``You want to come and make a statement after what happened last year,'' said South Carolina linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who missed last year's game with an injury. ``I had the opportunity to stand on the sideline and watch (Tebow) just rip us to pieces. You want to go back out this year and prove a point that we are capable of playing with these guys.
``It would be great to make that statement on their home field.''
The Gamecocks might have a defense capable of it, too. They lead the SEC in total defense, allowing just 256.5 yards a game, and rank third in scoring defense (15.6 points a game) and second against the run (101.4 yards a game).
South Carolina hasn't allowed more than 24 points in any game, and all three of the team's losses were by seven points.
ed for first in red zone offense, having scored on 37 of 39 trips inside the 20.
Oddsmakers have the Gators favored by more than three touchdowns. Spurrier a 22 1/2-point underdog in Gainesville?
Spurrier is 81-8 all-time at The Swamp - 13-2 as a player (1964-66), 68-5 as Florida's coach (1990-2001) and 0-1 with the Gamecocks (2006). His only double-digit loss at Florida Field came in 1993, when rival and eventual national champion Florida State beat the Gators 33-21.
``We're pretty huge underdogs, which is OK,'' Spurrier said. ``But we're going to go down there and pitch it around and line up and see how our defense, our No. 1 defense, ranks against the No. 1 offense. And hopefully our No. 7 offense will go pretty good against their defense. We'll see how it goes.''
Spurrier won Florida's first Heisman Trophy in 1966, returned as coach in 1990 and won 122 games in 12 seasons. He received widespread credit for revolutionizing the SEC with his innovative, wide-open passing attack and led the Gators to their first national title in 1996.
He created one of the best home-field advantages in college football and left behind a legacy that will always be a major part of Florida football.
And he has one of five spots in the program's Ring of Honor, commemorated by a large placard featuring his name and number.
Florida coach Urban Meyer sees it all daily, and has grown comfortable working in Spurrier's so-called shadow.
``He's one of the great coaches in college football history,'' Meyer said. ``I admire Bo Schembechler. I admire Woody Hayes. ... I admire a winner who did it the right way. That's all there. It's a great story line. But we have two great teams playing Saturday.''
Spurrier's return has created little or no buzz among Florida players, most of whom were in grade school when he won his last SEC title (2000).
``What he's done at the school has been tremendous,'' offensive tackle Jason Watkins said. ``You can't overlook it, but you've got to move on from it. It's not like you're trying to put him out of it - it's still a big deal that Spurrier's coming back here - but we've got our coach here now and we've moved on.''
The Gators may have moved on, but occasionally they still look over their shoulder.
``I don't think we ever want to downplay what he did here,'' Mullen said. ``We embrace the shadow that he brought here and how he built this program up. Growing up as a young coach, he's someone you look up to. I want our offense to look like his offenses in the mid-90s.''

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